Advice Column: Ask Experienced Weavers

Thank you so much to Lynette, Shannon, Jane, Sue, Cally and Amelia for offering up advice last week! I asked what people use as warp separators.

Three variations of brown paper were called out - rolls from the Dollar Store that are cheap but sometimes rip, the parcel wrapping brown paper readily available in many locations (including the post office), and carpenter/builder's paper available at Home Depot. :)

A couple of people use lease sticks - Jane made hers out of yard sticks, cut to the right length and sanded smooth.
Amelia warned me that fabric doesn't work well! (She knows that I have a stash of fabric just looking for a use!) ;)

Cally explained a bit about yarn for me. Her comment, combined with information from here, helps clear up my confusion about "knitting yarn". It seems that there are (at least) two types are yarn:
  • woollen spun yarn - which is made of shorter fibers going every which way, and thus is soft and fluffy (and recommended for knitting)
  • worsted yarn - which is made from longer fibers aligned in parallel, making it stronger and better for weaving

Finally, Lynette passed on a hint to periodically give the paper a good tug, to help tighten the warp, and Jane explained how she made her own raddle with some simple supplies from Home Depot.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of you taking the time to give me some advice and encouragement! Thanks! :)
Dear EW,

The Chandler book is great and I am really learning a lot! In many instances she presents several ways to do something and encourages the beginner to try them all. I appreciate this perspective and intend to do just that.

But still, I'm curious to hear from other weavers... For example, how do you warp your loom, from front-to-back or back-to-front? And why?

Similarly, when do you beat your weft - before closing the shed, while it's closed, or after opening the new shed? And why?

Were you taught these methods explicitly, or did you experiment with several different ways before settling on your current approach?

I'd really be interested to hear your stories!


photo credit:

Some Nibbles from my First Sampler

Well, the "slight hitch" extended beyond the reed to the heddles, but I was able to sort it out and fix it, and then the weaving began! :)

The most fun bit was diving into The Handweaver's Pattern Dictionary by Anne Dixon and trying some of the patterns! The thing that made me especially happy was that I was able to "crack" the code myself. (Although, later I read the chapter in the Chandler book that explained it beautifully.)

I even experimented with different tie-ups:

Man, I have to say that the Chandler book is EXCELLENT! I tried some weaving before reading the relevant chapter, and experienced a few issues - such as the twill packing more tightly, having difficulty rolling the fabric forward, and getting little loops of yarn along the selvedges.

THEN I read the chapter and found out that she had covered EVERY single one of those issues! It was like she was psychic! (Or possibly, has taught hundreds of beginners and thus knows exactly what problems we typically have...) Note to self - from now on, read first! ;)

So, my selvedges are pretty crappy, I certainly do NOT have control over my ppi, and who knows how well I've maintained the right tension in my warp - but I'm having a blast and I'll learn! :)

Do you remember your first piece? What was it and how did it come out? Did you save it?

Advice Column: Ask Experienced Weavers

Thank you so much to Sue, Amelia, Kristin, Lynette, Leigh and Susan for offering up advice last week! I asked for advice about types of yarn and places to buy it.

Regarding good places to buy yarn, here is a (linked) list of the wonderful suggestions that I received:
With regards to what type of yarn to use, several people encouraged me NOT to use "knitting yarn". Unfortunately, I'm not exactly sure what counts as knitting yarn. Back when I used to knit (dinosaurs still roamed the earth), I pretty much thought I could knit with anything I found in the store... I didn't know that certain yarns were officially "knitting yarns" and others weren't.

In contrast, a couple of people said that wool is a good first yarn, because it is very forgiving of beginner's mistakes.

So, based on this advice, I did return the cotton yarn that I had purchased (shown in the previous Dear EW post), and bought a wool yarn (Patons 100% pure new wool) instead. I don't know if this also counts as knitting yarn or not, but in the future I'll order from the above web sites, just to be sure... ;)

Other miscellaneous suggestions included a recommendation for thread on cones (vice balls) and to look for a local weaver's guild for both help and a community.

Finally, I also followed Susan's advice and downloaded the Master Yarn Size Chart from Interweave Press. I'm not sure exactly how to use it, but I'm sure I'll figure it out and it will come in handy eventually! ;)

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to offer up so much advice and encouragement!

Dear EW,

I'm working on my first warping, and I'm wondering about the warp separator. Chandler recommends heavy brown paper, corrugated cardboard, wallpaper, venetian blind slats or warp sticks. I didn't have any of those materials at hand. (It's lucky our house isn't wall papered, or I would have probably ripped a few panels off the wall! Ditto for venetian blinds...)

I ended up using medium weight crafter's vinyl, because it was the material that I had available that seemed most consistent with that recommendation.

I'm not sure how well it will work. Hopefully it won't stick unevenly to the yarn ends. We'll see...

So, do you have any recommendations? What do you use and where to you get it?



photo credit: snikrap

A Slight Hitch in Warp Speed

On Saturday I finished sleying the reed and threading the heddles. Sunday I worked on attaching my warp to the back and front beams of the loom. Here are my threads tied to the apron for the back beam:

When I went to wind the threads onto my back beam, I discovered a missing piece of hardware. I don't have a crank handle. My husband supplied a metal ruler that did the trick. And I ordered a real one on Monday morning! ;)

Next, here are the threads tied to the apron on the front beam:

The next step was to make a header. I chose to use panty hose. (I wasn't the least bit influenced by how much I hate wearing them and how fun it was to cut up a few pairs!)

And THAT was when I discovered the hitch...

Yup, out of 120 ends, I had made exactly one mistake - two threads through the same dent, with no empty dent on either side. Truthfully, I'm not upset. It strikes me as reasonable to have made one mistake my first time. Also, I was interested in the process of how the error revealed itself to me and how I was able to diagnose the problem. Definitely a learning experience and it reassures me that I will be able to understand things - they won't just happen by accident or remain a mystery to me...

It looks like I'll have to unsley about 40 ends to fix the mistake - it wasn't quite in the middle of the warp, but almost! This will be good practice too. I've got a business trip this week, so I probably won't get back to it until next weekend. I'm getting really excited to start weaving! :)

Warp Speed: Faster Than I Expected

This weekend I jumped into the deep end with both feet. Carefully following the instructions in Chandler's book, Learning to Weave, I tried to thread my loom for the very first time. If you've used her book, then you know that her first project is a 10 inch by 2 yard sample, with 2 colors in the warp (in 1 inch strips) and 2 colors in the weft.

Here is my first color on the warping board:

And here is my first chain:

Chandler has you start by threading the loom front to back. This shot shows my progress half-way through sleying the reed:

And here the reed is fullly sleyed:

Here are the heddles threaded:

Another shot, from beater to shafts:

And, finally, a shot of the back of the loom.

That's as far as I got on Saturday. I haven't attached my yarns to the front or rear beams yet. Hopefully I'll be able to complete the process, and maybe even start some weaving, quite soon.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how relatively smoothly and relatively quickly it all went together. Years ago I used to knit, and I think that experience helped me work with the yarn (wool) more comfortably. Also, of course, the piece isn't very large, so I was only working with 120 ends.

Still, I was braced for this to be very time-consuming and tedious and difficult - especially for my first time and working alone from a book - but it came together quickly and I can easily imagine the process being enjoyable with a bit more experience. :)

Parting Shot: Weaving is also new to our cats. Here, Sammy oversees my work at the warping board, with interest. I had just commented how sweet it was that he wanted to be near me, when he pounced on the ball of yarn... ;)

Advice Column: Ask Experienced Weavers

Dear EW,

Thank you so much to Amelia, Kristin and Sue for the advice regarding books for learning how to weave! I was happy to hear that my choice of books (D. Chandler, Learning How to Weave) was highly recommended by all! Also recommended were "The Big Book of Weaving" by Laila Lundell and a magazine called Handwoven. Definitely two good things for me to check out! Thanks!

So, I think I've got all my weaving "hardware" under control. But I could really use some advice about the "software" - the yarn.

Can you recommend some places - brick & mortar chain stores and/or online stores - where I could shop? Are there certain types and/or certain brands you recommend? Or maybe ones that you would encourage me to avoid? ;)

Thanks so much for your advice! :)


top photo credit: snikrap

A Little Care

I spent most of last weekend giving my loom a light sanding and a lemon oil massage. I also took some fine steel wool to the reed - gently, of course. She looks so beautiful now! (Do people name their looms?)

I had to order some miscellaneous parts - a warping board, shuttles, bobbin threader and a hook to thread the heddles and sley the reed. It is all scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. I can't wait!

I found a couple of videos on youtube that illustrate threading the loom: this one from maidensweaver and this one from Cassandra225.

I have next Monday off - hopefully with a three day weekend and all my equipment, I can thread my loom for the first time! Wish me luck! :)

Advice Column: Ask Experienced Weavers

Dear EW,

I just bought my first loom! My only experience weaving is 30 minutes on a demonstration loom at a fiber arts conference - I don't know how to thread one or anything. I have ordered this book:

But, I was wondering, are there any other books that you would recommend for a beginner?



photo credit: snikrap

The Back Story

It all started last summer. My college friend Kathy and I wanted to find something fun to do together. Convergence 2008, sponsored by the Handweaver's Guild of America and being held in Tampa, Florida, fit the bill perfectly. Kathy took beading classes and I took sewing classes. We learned new techniques and had a wonderful time visiting.

The drama took place on the exhibit floor. We were browsing near the Harrisville Loom booth when, like a savvy drug dealer, the exhibitor offered me my first "hit" for free. "Hi, there! Want to try a little weaving? It's easy..." I took a few tentative passes with the shuttle, but had to leave almost immediately for my next class.

During my next break, an invisible but irresistible force drew me back to the Harrisville booth and I asked to try a little more weaving. Fast forward thirty minutes - I've woven several inches and tried several different patterns. I was in love!

But, the course of my love was not destined to run smoothly at first. Looms are expensive. I have a very full and busy life - a husband, a career and two time consuming hobbies. Weaving would have to wait... I knew that I needed to be strong and walk away.

Later, browsing in the books with Kathy, I stumbled across the book that sealed my fate.

Six hundred woven patterns achievable through various combinations of threading the loom and sequencing the pedals! (Accurate terminology pending.) Six hundred! I loved seeing all those beautiful and complex patterns broken down into systematic sequences and relationships...

But I didn't buy the book. No, weaving was sometime in my long distant future... I held firm and, once again, walked away.

Kathy, however, while a truly wonderful person, has a slightly devious streak. Six months later, right before Christmas, what should arrive in the mail but a Christmas gift from Kathy - the very book that had so captivated me at the conference!

I started flipping through the pages and all those feelings came rushing back to me. "What could it hurt?" the little crafting devil whispered into my ear, "to just do a quick internet search and look into looms? Just to get an idea of what's out there..."

In case you are wondering - this is what was out there:

A "used" (but unused) Harrisville 22 inch loom (the exact model I had tried at the conference), for sale at half the price of a new one, about 90 minutes from our home!

And so, I find myself the proud, happy, excited and nervous owner of a loom! My ultimate goal is to weave fabric that I can use to sew garments. First, of course, I'll need to learn how to thread the thing! (The one at the conference was already threaded - go figure!)

I hope you'll stop in from time to time and read about my adventures. I'm not afraid to show my mistakes or to laugh at myself, and something tells me that both skills are going to come in handy! I especially hope that, if you weave, you'll be willing and able to give me some advice once in a while...

Who knows, if this works out, maybe my next big Christmas present will be a herd of sheep! ;)